The so-called north atlantic garbage patch has environmentalists worried
Ocean Researchers have, in the north atlantic garbage patch, recently discovered yet another disturbing example of the havoc being wreaked upon our oceans by pollution.
Just as in the Pacific Ocean, a huge swirling mass of floating plastic debris is growing daily from waste washed into the Atlantic Ocean from landfills and plastic discarded all over the surrounding continents.
The north atlantic garbage patch debris has been documented, by scientists researching the seas from Bermuda all the way across to the Portuguese islands, the Azores.
The studies have recorded confetti-like particles being carried in a vortex of the oceanic currents.
The nature and size of the north atlantic garbage patch particles make the problem almost impossible to clean up.
This is the second major occurrence discovered, the last being the
North Pacific Gyre
which was discovered nearly a decade ago in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the North American coast.
Undergraduates at the Woods Hole, Massachusetts-based Sea Education Association gathered thousands of samples between Canada and the Caribbean finding the highest concentrations of plastics between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude, an offshore patch equivalent to the area between roughly Cuba and Washington, D.C.
The north atlantic garbage patch is made up of long trails of seaweed, mixed with bottles, crates and other flotsam, drift in the still waters of the area, known as the North Atlantic Subtropical Convergence Zone. Plastic containers were found with live fish trapped inside.
Most of the plastic is small pea size pieces just below the water surface.
Researcher Anne Cummins and her husband Marcus Erikson gathered samples for their project across the North Atlantic.
"It's shocking to see it firsthand," Cummins said. "Nothing compares to being out there. We've managed to leave our footprint really everywhere."
Still more data are needed to assess the dimensions of the North Atlantic garbage patch.
Charles Moore, an ocean researcher credited with discovering the Pacific garbage patch in 1997, said the north atlantic garbage patch undoubtedly has comparable amounts of plastic. The east coast of the United States has more people and more rivers to funnel garbage into the sea. But since the Atlantic is stormier, debris there is more dispersed, he said.
Whatever the difference between the two regions, plastics are devastating the environment across the world, said Moore, whose Algalita Marine Research Foundation based in Long Beach, California, was among the sponsors for Cummins and Eriksen.
"Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint," he said.
Plastics have entangled birds and turned up in the bellies of fish: A paper cited by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says as many as 100,000 marine mammals could die trash-related deaths each year.
The plastic bits, which can be impossible for fish to distinguish from plankton, are dangerous in part because they sponge up potentially harmful chemicals that are also circulating in the ocean, said Jacqueline Savitz, a marine scientist at Oceana, an ocean conservation group based in Washington.
As much as 80 percent of marine debris comes from land, according to the United Nations Environmental Program.
The U.S. government is concerned the pollution could hurt its vital interests.
"That plastic has the potential to impact our resources and impact our economy," said Lisa DiPinto, acting director of NOAA's marine debris program. "It's great to raise awareness so the public can see the plastics we use can eventually land in the ocean."
DiPinto said the federal agency is co-sponsoring a new voyage this summer by the Sea Education Association to measure plastic pollution southeast of Bermuda. NOAA is also involved in research on the Pacific patch.
"Unfortunately, the kinds of things we use plastic for are the kinds of things we don't dispose of carefully," Savitz said. "We've got to use less of it, and if we're going to use it, we have to make sure we dispose of it well."
Researchers say the occurrence is likely to exist in other areas of the seas all over the world.
The plastic is harmful to the entire food chain, being eaten and absorbed by fish and in turn mammals, including humans, gathering in concentration and therefore harm as it reaches the top of the food chain – us…..
It brings to mind in graphic terms – ‘what goes around, comes around’, as I have said on another page – something along the lines of crapping on your own doorstep.
We are pouring poison into our own food supply - apart from into every other facet of our world vital to our future.
What do we do about it?
- Challenging the throwaway ethic of our societies using non-biodegradable materials is one of the main ways to challenge this threat.
- Communicating this problem to as many people as possible is another way of working to counter the problem.
- Countries across the world are starting to take measures to restrict the use of plastic bags, by charging for them. Supermarket chains are encouraging the use of re-useable bags for groceries.
- Using re-useable bottles rather than plastic bottles.
- Getting involved in recycling in your area.
- Some recycling companies are making recycling easier for the consumer by utilising equipment which sorts the recyclable material for you.
People have to start to realise, issues like the north atlantic garbage patch isn't someone else’s problem –
IT IS YOURS! YOUR WASTE FROM YOUR AREA. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?
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